6 Best Walking Hats for Different Types of Weather

What you wear on your head when you go walking probably depends on the weather and how much you want to avoid hat hair. There are pros and cons for each kind of headwear, from baseball caps to Buffs to balaclavas. Of course, you always have the option of going bare on top, but here are some options for walking hats:


The Sun Visor

Sun Visor
Sun Visor. Wendy Bumgardner © 2011

Hat hair potential: Low. You can adjust the visor so it goes below your hairline and doesn't crush your hairdo. But a visor is like driving a convertible, offering no overhead protection from the elements.

  • Shades eyes, keeps sun off face

  • Keeps hair off of sweaty forehead and nape of neck

  • Often has an absorbent sweatband

  • Lets top of head breathe, keeping you cooler

  • Doesn't keep sun, rain, wind, or cold out of hair

  • Doesn't protect top of head from sunburn


The Billed Cap

Hytail Hat
Hytail Hat. AD Activewear

Hat hair potential: High. Things are likely to get steamy under your hat. But you can find a cap for all seasons—sweat-wicking breathable summer caps, waterproof rainy weather caps, insulated winter caps, and even caps with built-in LED lights and reflective strips for night walking. Buy Direct has hats with walking slogans. The Hytail Hat (pictured) has an extra-long ponytail hole so you can wear it with a high ponytail.

  • Keeps sun off face and shades eyes

  • Keeps sun, wind, and rain off top of head

  • Some have built-in sweatbands

  • Shows your colors with favorite logo or slogan

  • Most have a ponytail hole at the back

  • Hat hair to the max

  • No sun protection for neck and ears

  • Doesn't keep ears warm (unless it has ear flaps)


Sun Hats

Sunday Afternoons Adventure Hat
Wendy Rocks the Sunday Afternoons Adventure Hat at the Seattle Breast Cancer 3-Day Walk Finish. Wendy Bumgardner ©

Hat hair potential: Extreme. Be prepared for major hair repair after wearing a sun hat. Men may prefer to rock a boonie hat, a soft hat that provides just enough shade for the face and neck. Straw hats, cowboy hats, and more can be used to keep the sun off your head and neck. Sunday Afternoons makes a variety of adventure sun hats for walking and hiking.

  • Sun and heat protection for the face, neck, and head

  • Variety of styles available 

  • Won't blow away if it has a chin strap

  • Major hairdo damage

  • Not over-the-ear headphone-friendly

  • Chin strap could be annoying



Scarves and Buffs

Buff Head Scarf
Buff Head Scarf. Wendy Bumgardner © 2011

Hat hair potential: Moderately high. It depends on how you wear it. The reality show "Survivor" helped popularize the Buff, a seamless microfiber tube. You can wear a Buff at least 12 different ways on your head. When you don't want it on your head, you can wear it around your neck instead. You can also wear it as a tube top or skirt.

  • Packable and washable

  • Offers sun protection

  • Can keep ears warm

  • Versatile

  • No bill or brim to keep sun out of eyes (although Visor Buff comes with a bill)


Winter Walking Hats

Sub4 Drylyte Hat
Sub4 Drylyte Hat. Wendy Bumgardner © 2005

Hat hair potential: High. Even in the cold, your head can steam and sweat, and most winter walking hats will crush your hairdo.

The ideal winter walking hat has a bill to shade your eyes and keep the rain and snow out of them while insulating your head and ears to keep them warm.

Your basic beanie hat works fine for winter walking if you don't mind sun and wind in your face. It does the job of keeping your head and ears warm.

As it gets below the freezing point, you may want to add a neck gaiter or balaclava.


Rain Hats and Hoods

Walkers Await the Start of the Seattle Marathon
Walkers Await the Start of the Seattle Marathon, Suitably Attired in Waterproof Jackets with Hoods. Rachel Spanks ©

Hat hair potential: Moderate to high. It's raining, so your hairdo is likely to suffer from the humidity as well as rubbing against your hat or hood.

Standard rainy weather headgear includes a waterproof hood on a waterproof jacket. The best hoods have a short bill built in to guide the rain away from your eyes, and they cinch up to keep rain from blasting in under your hood.

You can also buy waterproof versions of boonie hats, sun hats, beanies, and winter fleece hats. However, it usually isn't the rain coming down on top of your head that's the problem, it's keeping the rain from getting in under your hat and dripping down your neck and under your jacket and shirt.

Wearing a non-waterproof hoodie in the rain is almost worse than wearing nothing. The rain will soak in and then you have wet fabric against your skin, further chilling you.

By Wendy Bumgardner
Wendy Bumgardner is a freelance writer covering walking and other health and fitness topics and has competed in more than 1,000 walking events.